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Novato Family Overcomes Health Scare To Keep Christmas Tradition Alive

NOVATO (CBS SF) — For 27 years, a north Novato home has lit up the neighborhood and the hearts of those who visit the house every year, but this year, the Rombeiro family considered turning off the lights.

The family had doubts about being able to put up their display after Edmundo Rombeiro suffered numerous health setbacks.

The Christmas lights display on 34 Devonshire Drive in Novato is unlike any other in Northern California. The family starts decorating in August to be ready for the yearly tradition and it’s not just the outside of the home.

Visitors are welcomed inside the home, where several rooms are decked out in an unique holiday theme.

Edmundo Rombeiro’s favorite decoration in his house is the train room. He has roughly 40,000 visitors walking through his house every year, an idea his wife wasn’t too keen on at first.

“I thought he was crazy, especially to open the door to the public,” Mary Jo Rombeiro told KPIX 5.

The Rombieros contemplated ending their 27-year run this year. On New Year’s Day of 2018, Edmundo suffered a heart attack, then an aneurysm. He had brain surgery, suffered 4 bouts of pneumonia during his 3-month hospital stay.

Doctors told his family, Edmundo most likely wouldn’t survive. He proved the doctors wrong.

“It’s been a really hard year for our family so for us to continue to do this it means so much,” Edmundo’s daughter Kathy said.

Kathy maybe the biggest reason why this holiday tradition continues in Novato. On what they thought was his deathbed she made a promise to her dad to keep the holiday lights on.

To keep her promise, she drove from Rohnert Park to Novato every day to work on putting up the decorations, just like her dad used to do.

“I really thought we weren’t going to put this on.” Kathy admitted, “But with a little bit of magic and a lot of prayer, we have this today.”

Edmundo says he has the best daughter in the world. With her help, the family will try to keep this tradition going for 30 years but then call it quits.

“I told my wife the other day, we go to 35 years and she said no no no no no,” says Edmundo Rombeiro.

While the Novato community will be disappointed to see the Rombeiro house go dark, there is a slim chance it might go past 30 years.

Santa’s little helper may step up again to keep this tradition going for years to come. As Kathy says, “My dad’s dream has been to go 30 years but we’ve been talking a lot about this and thinking and I don’t know, this is in my heart so I don’t know maybe we will go beyond 30, we will see.”

The lights will stay on until January 6th. The Rombeiro family says after this season is over, Edmundo will go through intensive physical therapy. The hope is he will be strong enough to be back on the sleigh parked on his driveway to take pictures with the kids again.